The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” [John 2:18-19, NAS]
A study in John has led to some thinking on Jesus’ clearing of the temple (Jn 2:13-22). Of particular interest was Jesus’ response to his Jewish interlocutors who sought a sign for his authority to wreak such havoc in near sacred space (i.e. the court of the Gentiles). Some observations:
1. Destroy this temple is more than mere prediction. No doubt Jesus’ answer was prophetic but to see this as straight foretelling fails to take into account that Jesus utters a command. The statement is not If you destroy…, When you destroy…, or even You will destroy; rather, we find the phrasing of an imperative–Destroy this temple.
2. Jesus’ use of the imperative makes clear that he controls the agenda. When the Jews demand a sign not only does Jesus not grant their request he places the onus on them by commanding them to take part in producing the sign (albeit as glorified stagehands constructing a scene for the lead actor).
3. Even human rebellion is governed by Jesus’ authority. In the gospels, the demand for a sign is most often a sign of man’s unbelief (Mat 16:1-4) and that axiom seems to apply here, too. We know that the eventual tearing down of Jesus’ “temple” was the ultimate act of unbelief & rejection even as they did exactly what they were commanded to do (cf. Acts 4:27-28).